Digestive enzymes are essential to proper digestion and the absorption of nutrients. They’re a key player in the way your body handles fuel and then disperses it throughout the body.
When you don’t have enough enzymes or the wrong ones, you don’t digest food properly, and this can lead to a number of health problems, from simple gas to more serious conditions like lactose intolerance.
What Are Digestive Enzymes?
Digestive enzymes naturally occur in some foods, in your mouth, stomach, small intestines, and your pancreas. You can also take a high-quality supplement to ensure you’re getting the right amount of natural digestive enzymes to support healthy digestion and proper gut health.
If you’re seriously lacking digestive enzymes, your doctor will prescribe an enzyme medication.
There are three main categories of digestive enzymes:
♦ Lipase: which breaks down fat
♦ Amylase: manages carbohydrates
♦ Proteases and peptidases: which work on proteins
Once the enzymes break down the food into molecules that are small enough, they are then absorbed through the wall of the small intestine and join the bloodstream to be delivered throughout the body.
While many of the digestive enzymes your body needs to process food are found in your body naturally, you can also find some of them in foods, which may help you digest.
Foods Containing Digestive Enzymes
If you’re having some difficulty digesting foods, and you suffer from gas, bloating, heartburn, and other problems absorbing key nutrients, then eating more of these foods can help your digestive process work more efficiently.
In addition to being delicious, pineapples contain the digestive enzymes bromelain, which falls into the protein digesting category, making them a protease.
Bromelain has been known by chefs for a long time as a powdered meat tenderizer. It’s also a popular supplement for people who have problems digesting proteins on their own.
The papaya contains proteases that break down protein, but it has its own special enzyme called papain, which is especially efficient at breaking down proteins. Papain is also very effective in treating symptoms of IBS such as constipation and bloating.
Make the most of the enzymes in papayas by eating them ripe and uncooked, heat can destroy the enzymes. It’s also a good idea for pregnant women to avoid papayas, especially unripe or semi-ripe ones as they may stimulate contractions.
Another delicious tropical fruit, mangos are in the class of amylase enzymes. As mangoes ripen, their enzymatic abilities become stronger and more effective.
In your body, some amylase enzymes are created in your salivary glands, making them a key part of the first step in the digestion process.
Raw honey is loaded with health benefits, and the taste can’t be beaten. If you’re looking for digestive enzymes, then you’ll want to add honey to your menu. Honey contains:
♦ Diastases: which turn starch into maltose
♦ Amylases: which break some starches and carbohydrates into glucose and maltose
♦ Invertases: break sucrose into glucose and fructose
♦ Proteases: break down proteins into amino acids
This wide variety of digestive enzymes makes honey an excellent food additive for many people who are looking to add some more naturally.
Bananas act much like mangoes in that their natural digestive enzymes grow stronger as they ripen. Amylases and glucosidases can be found in bananas, and they’re known for their ability to break down complex carbohydrates into absorbable sugars.
If you’re looking to alleviate bloating, then bananas may be your solution. In addition to their digestive enzymes, they have a lot of fiber and prebiotics.
In a study looking at bifidogenic effects of a banana on diet in women, there was a small increase in the bifidobacteria, but nothing significant. What was interesting is that there were reports of less bloating from the participants.
The avocado fruit is high in healthy fats and low in sugar, which makes their lipase digestive enzyme very useful as it focuses on converting fat into fatty acids and glycerol, which are easier for the body to absorb.
Because your pancreas produces lipase, you typically do not need it from an external source, but it can ease digestion if you eat a high-fat meal, which is why it’s perfect that lipase comes in the fatty fruit, avocado.
Avocados also contain other enzymes, mainly polyphenol oxidase, but these don’t help with digestion. Polyphenol oxidase is what turns the fruit brown when it’s exposed to air.
Ginger is a popular ingredient in desserts and Asian food. It also has a long history of being used for health and digestive problems. Many of the benefits people attribute to ginger come from its digestive enzymes.
Ginger contains zingibain, a protease enzyme that works on protein digestion. One of the causes of indigestion is food that sits in the stomach too long. In one study, it was found that ginger helped the stomach empty faster, relieving indigestion.
There have also been animal studies that show that ginger and other spices have a positive influence on digestive enzymes. This would lead one to believe that ginger not only has its own digestive enzymes, but they work with others in the body to promote proper digestion.
Digestive enzymes are essential, and they help with the digestion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. For most people, these enzymes are produced in the body, and their process can be aided by some of the foods you eat, like the seven foods listed above.
For other people, digestive enzymes don’t work well enough, or they don’t have enough. In these situations, the symptoms can be gas or bloating or can be as serious as lactose intolerance.
If you have gastrointestinal discomfort, you may want to try adding more of these foods or a high-quality digestive supplement to your regimen to get a natural, healthy boost of digestive enzymes.
If you have more serious symptoms that you believe are linked to a digestive enzyme issue, it’s best to communicate with your doctor as more aggressive measures might need to be taken and you may need a prescription to manage your symptoms.
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